49ers Special teams and coaching
Special Teams: D-
Mitch Wishnowsky in his two punts pinned the Lions inside the 20 both times. Taybor Pepper didn’t have a bad snap. That’s about it for the positives for the special teams units.
Brandon Aiyuk was back to return punts, and he didn’t provide much, if any, of a spark. Robbie Gould missed a 52-yard field goal pretty clearly; 50-plus kicks aren’t guarantees but for a kicker who counts as much as he does against the cap, there needs to be more. And of course, George Kittle had a onside kick hit his facemask and couldn’t recover it, that’s a big issue right there.
Are some of those things temporary aberrations? Probably. But special teams continue to be an issue for the 49ers, and until they gain more value from the third phase of the game, they’ll continue to handcuff themselves in big games.
Kyle Shanahan called a rather vanilla offense against the Lions, but it worked extremely well. Players were running wide open against the Lions, and until the very end, runs were gashing them for chunk plays.
The defense on the other hand was more of a mixed bag. DeMeco Ryans called some smart blitzes and stunts to get his rushers free and get pressure on Jared Goff, but by and large, the defense was gashed by simple football that it did not adjust to. Ryans called his first-ever game; there’s no need to panic just yet. But schematically there were some holes, and off an initial glance, it looked like his best players (Fred Warner especially) weren’t always in the best position to leverage their unique talents.
The elephant in the room for this game is Shanahan leaving his starters out, Verrett getting injured, and then Shanahan taking his starters out only for the Lions to mount such a furious comeback the starters needed to come back in.
The unfortunate reality is that injuries are a part of football. Should Shanahan have attempted to protect his most injury-prone player (Verrett)? Perhaps. I would personally lean towards yes. But there was a clear correlation between the starters leaving and the Lions attacking with more focus and energy. Most of the time, the onside snafu and fumble don’t happen, and the starters aren’t rushed back. But it did this time, and the 49ers almost lost because of it. That’s squarely on the coaches for letting their teams let up.
The 49ers will await injury news and prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles, who eviscerated the Falcons with a potent rushing attack and a strong pass-rush. We’ll see how this team responds next week.